|Insurer Personal Health Records (PHRs): Can They Bridge the Information Gap?
While many major health insurers have created personal
health records (PHRs) to allow enrollees to electronically store and
organize their healthcare information, whether patients and physicians
will embrace the new electronic tool remains an open question,
according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change
A PHR is a centralized place for people to
electronically store and organize their personal health information,
separate from electronic or paper medical records maintained by their
healthcare providers. Many advocates believe that PHRs have the
potential to revolutionize healthcare by engaging patients in their
care, improving patient-clinician communication, and, ultimately,
improving health outcomes and reducing costs.
While there are many different types of PHRs, including
stand-alone and provider-sponsored products, the study focuses on PHRs
offered by health insurers. Typically, health insurers automatically
fill PHRs with medical and pharmacy claims data and allow patients to
enter additional information.
Some insurers offer features to facilitate data sharing
with physicians via the PHR or through a separate portal of
Health insurer PHRs are relatively new, and the evolving
products vary greatly in design. Many insurers initially offered a
basic PHR in response to employers' demands. Nonetheless, nearly all
the insurers in the study were enhancing their PHR offerings, primarily
as a competitive strategy.
For example, in addition to claims-based information,
insurers are adding selected laboratory results and care management
applications, such as clinical alerts and reminders and identification
of patients for disease management programs.
Insurers' ability to put claims-based data into PHRs was
seen as an advantage, but consumer representatives suggested that
enrollees' concerns about data security and confidentiality could
hamper adoption, while physicians question the use of claims data for
treatment purposes and have concerns about incorporating use of PHR
information into practice workflows.
"To date, most insurers haven't actively marketed PHRs
to enrollees and physicians, and patient take up and physician
awareness of insurer-sponsored PHRs appears to be low," said Joy M.
Grossman, HSC senior researcher and coauthor of the study with Teresa
Zayas-Cabán, senior manager of health information technology at
the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and Nicole Kemper, HSC
health research analyst.
The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.
Address: Center for Studying Health System Change, 600 Maryland Ave, SW, Suite 550, Washington, DC 20024; (202) 484-5261, www.hschange.org.